The Power of Time: Movement Beyond Our Control

When we respond to something, our reaction is going to be relative to that moment. Leading up to that moment is going to dictate how we are going to react to that moment.

Neuromuscular response is built around the interaction and interplay between forces, angles and movement synchronization.  We are built in a capacity to move and move well, however we are not all built the same. Our structural integrities are unique, and have a particular identity that can’t be mimicked with precision. However, we all have commonalities and similarities that help us understand movement and integrity from a bigger lens. There are continuums and paradigms that gives us great insight into program possibilities for exercise training and movement integrity, but I believe sometimes we lose insight into what it all means in the end.

The power of movement is beyond our control. Last week I received a call no one ever wants to get. My dad has passed away after fighting for his life in the ICU for over two months. My dad was a sports medicine doctor and also worked in private care. He loved to help others, loved to watch hockey and was active in the hockey community in Fresno, CA. When I got the call I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I received a call from my brother and I thought he was calling in regards to some research we were looking into doing. Within the first few seconds, I knew something was wrong. His tone was different, you could hear sadness in his voice and then I heard it, “Dad passed away a few minutes ago.” My dad had been in the ICU fighting for his life for over 2 months and he was showing huge improvements. The whole family had just been down to see him and we thought he was going to fight through it, but it wasn’t enough. It was his time.

I was talking with my good friend Dan John a couple days after and I was talking with how I was glad he got to see the whole family before he passed. It was weird in the sense that the higher power was allowing him this time to see all his kids and their children before he moved on. Dan told me that deaths are higher after Christmas and Easter, two big family oriented holidays in the US.  I told him I was still in disbelief and was trying to figure “everything” out.  You can’t train for this. You can only prepare for this, but even then your preparation is ambiguous because it is reality that can never be changed or reversed.

As a strength coach and exercise physiologist, I can only do so much research, and program so much, and coach so many reps and sets before its “Time”.  I can help build up work capacity and motor unit recruitment. I can improve speed, movement flow and reaction time but I cannot train or prepare an athlete or client for when it is game time, whether that is in life or on the field.

In 2009 I was pitching for Sonoma State University and was brought into a situation with no outs, bases loaded and a 3-0 count on the hitter. The coach had taken the pitcher out before he could finish the at bat with the hitter. It was 5-2 and we were in the lead. How do we as coaches train that? We can’t, we can only prepare… but what coach in their programing sheets has that programmed in? It is impossible.

When I got that phone call from my brother earlier last week, I lost myself for a second, and when I realized what had happened I lost myself again. As much as I tried to prepare for the worse when my dad was in the ICU, I couldn’t and reality hit, then life, and the aftermath hit.

My neuro capacity went chaotic, my movement patterns changed and I was learning how to adjust to the passing of my father. It is one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I believe it is one of the hardest things anyone has to go through, but I can only speak for myself. Without the support of our family, my girlfriend, and our friends, I wouldn’t be where I am at currently.  You can’t train this, you can only prepare for it.

I believe in training we need a good base of support if we are going to do great things. Great things come with a cost, and the one’s willing to endure these cost will reap the purity of their accomplishments.

I believe our base of support needs to be built through neurological enrichment as we grow, linked through developmental structural integrity, and then personalized based on the life and environment at which we want to live.

Every life is different which means every base of support will be unique. Preparing an athlete or client for the house they want to build based on their base of support and integrity, will allow the athlete or client to endure the costs needed to fulfill their accomplishments. My dad’s goal in life was to watch his sons grow up and help teach them skills, skills needed to give back to their communities in a positive way. My dad was a humble quite man who went beyond the lengths to help people out, while his base of support was prepping him for his next journey.

It was his Time, and all I can do is hope I helped him prepare for his next journey.

Dad 1

I love you Dad. You are my hero, and I hope one day I can help as many as you did.

 

Love,

Your Son

Relativity: Specific to the person, place and time

Umbrella 1There are many avenues to exercise. You can run, row, lift heavy things off the ground and dance your heart away in a group class. They are all good, if they are done with a relative mind set. A relative mind set allows you to create context to the world at which you want to live and helps define what you want to create. It brings clarity to your starting position and gives you some insight on where you need to go. Now, getting there and how long it takes is another beast you will have to conquer, but we tend to use the relativity of our goals because goals take time and hard work.  When we spend day after day, hour after hour, trying to achieve our goal and we don’t see the feedback we are looking for, we lose the relativity of our goal and lose the stability and strength of our platform at which we started.

Exercising is the interplay of accumulated movements and patterns that are developed through behavioral and physiological intrinsic and extrinsic perceptions, and awareness of one’s mind, body and soul. A relative mind set is understanding that all exercises are good but are only good for a particular time and place and must progress and advance based on the goal.

Dan John tells us all the time that, “the goal is to keep the goal the goal,” that is relative. If the goal is to get stronger, you lift weights. If you want to increase your flexibility, you take a stretching class. It is rather simple in the beginning to keep the goals relative, however, over time clarity diminishes and goals start to get foggy.

Our goals start to get foggy when our values start to change. Let’s face it, we all get bored. It takes a lot of effort to keep doing the same thing over and over again especially when we do not see the results we are looking for right off the bat. Our values drive us to change things up (which isn’t a bad thing), add exercises, subtract exercises, quit our current program and start fresh. This can be a good thing but can lead us astray if it doesn’t work.

People and Blue

 

Our values are subjective and they give us the ability to define who we are and what we want to do with our life. However, our values can be misleading and perceived differently based on who we talk to. They do not know who you are, what your world is like, or what your goals are. You found the information, the information didn’t find you, so taking everything with a grain of salt is key when establishing your goals. Just because there is an MD behind a name, doesn’t mean what is being said is good for you specifically. I have unfortunately seen doctor’s sale their soul to the dark side for money. I have read, listened, and watched exercise professionals capitalize on easy money because of their image and brand.

When your searching for exercises and approaches to help you reach your goals, ask these simple questions.

1# What is my goal?

2# How much time, equipment and space do I have to reach my goal?

3# Is what I am about to do going to help me take a step forward towards my goal?

These questions help create clarity and understanding to where you want to go.

There is a place and time for non-relative exercises and exercising.  I believe we all should jump, climb and roll around in the grass. There doesn’t need to be a why behind every exercise program we do, just some of them. The number one thing is showing up. If you had no idea what you were doing, hands down just showing up helps create that clarity.

Remember that your goal is your goal and it’s your life. Do what makes you happy, not what others think will make you happy, because when it is all said in done you are the one living your life.

RKC to CSP: The Journey of the Little Things

Dan John once told me, “You have attended everything that I have. You know my knowledge just as well as anyone, and you keep showing up.”

Well, why wouldn’t I?

I recently traveled across the U.S. to catch up with Dan John and Eric Cressey, two of the biggest influencers in my life whose knowledge continues to help me develop and grow the systems forATPSoloBlackRed Academy of Total Performance and Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institutes. Two coaches that pack a powerful punch when it comes to training.

From an early time in my career, I developed the awareness to understand that the people I surround myself around and the messages they instill in me would influence how I grow and live my life as a son, brother, friend, and coach. It is the messages, the “little things,” that bring context and meaning to the bigger picture.  TaylorCFFIlogoMainWhen your system (auditory, spatial, kinesthetic, etc.) is fully engaged in a learning style that is new or uncomfortable, it doesn’t pick up on the small pieces that the environment requires to be built on. In order to work towards the bigger picture, the system first views the new environment as a whole and then must become comfortable in order to be able to break down, process, and learn from the “little things.”Going to conferences and seminars that you are not highly versed in challenges you to truly understand the context of what a coach is saying.

Dan John: “Show up, perform the lifts, then you have the right to talk about it.”

Eric Cressey: “Over-deliver.”

These two quotes, when morphed together and put into context, sum up why I travel around the world to try to improve my craft.  Dan has been my mentor and friend (more like family) for over 6 years, and Eric has mentored me for over 5 years.

Recently, I had the opportunity to assist Dan at an RKC in Utah (his house) and listen to Eric present on the shoulder in New York.

Hanging out at Dan’s is always an adventure. His dog, Sirius Black, runs around with chew toys close to his side, Bob (their robot cleaner), plays Rock’em, Sock’em Robots with the walls as it searches for dirt, and Dan is on course to conquer a 100 items of business before the clock strikes noon.

I have been to RKC in the past, yet this RKC was unique. Tim Anderson, the owner of Original Strength, was coming into recertify and we were both crashing at Dan’s. This meant resets and kettlebell for 3 days.

Yeah, I think I can live with that. As Ice Cube once said, “today was a good day.”

The little things I learned:

Dan John: “Stop chasing your one rep max.”IMG_6619

Takeaway: You spend a lot of neuromuscular energy when you chase the 1 rep max. Your recovery then has to be on point. We can’t forget about what goes on in the body after the lift. It takes days to recover from high neuromuscular training. Those days off could be fundamental lift days if you stop chasing the 1 rep max.  What I mean by this is, what if you lift more often and at 60% max? Then your 60% gets easier and you increase the weight, which by default will increase your 1 rep max. This will allow your system to fully utilize its adaptation mechanisms to increase proper recovery. Adequate recovery gives you optimal potential.

Tim Anderson: “It feels good to feel good.”

Takeaway: I heard that and thought, “Yup! Tim gets it.” Tim’s words were so clear, yet ambiguous to a lot of us. Goals give us opportunities to do unimaginable things. They also give us time to create clarity. The process to accomplishing a goal is determined based on the clarity regarding the goals purpose, as well as is determined by the environment. IMG_6623The journey to the goal increases specific adaptive changes of movement. It takes blood, sweat and tears to reach a goal. Yet, after you enjoy the accomplishment, you must reciprocate and allow the body the time “to feel good” as well. Your psychological goals will allow for your imagination to run wild, but you need to create a partnership among the systems (neurological system, respiratory system, skeletal system, muscular system, immune system, etc.) that allow the psychological state to occur.

Eric Cressey: Just because an exercise doesn’t hurt, doesn’t mean that it isn’t causing problems.  Think of the cigarette analogy; it’s one bad habit that won’t kill you in a day, but it can do so over an extended period of time.”

Takeaway: This is why you have to have clarity on your goal. Everything in movement has its purpose, however, depending on your goal, that purpose may not be ideal in the end. The hard pill to swallow is the “right now.” When an exercise feels good in the moment, there is a tendency to glance over on if it was truly beneficial towards what you were trying to accomplish. When you get hurt during a movement, you immediately analyze and blame what you did wrong at that moment, when in actuality it was repetitive patterns done continuously over time.IMG_6698 These repetitive patterns eventually reach a limit threshold, which causes the body to send out signals and give you a reality check. This is what we call “right now” thinking. When you are completing repetitive movements that are not ideal for the progress of your goal, your internal alarm system goes off and lets you know to adjust, slow down, and/or stop the movement.  Processing instant and gradual performance feedback, as well as informative feedback (how to improve) will allow for clarity to occur to help you understand what happened.

Showing up and listening to the little things shapes your “why,” your purpose for creating your goals, and brings clarity to your mission. Consistency then allows learning styles to adapt and creates familiarity to your vision. It is all about “the little things.”

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All you have to do now is show up.

 

Baseball Pitchers In-season Posture

 

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Baseball players overtime develop and master the skill to make split decisions in front of 40,000 screaming fans, rotate and connect with unreal power and consistently do it over and over again. However, the elite of the elite are a dime a dozen. It takes time and years of practice to get anywhere close to that. To even give yourself a chance on the diamond you must take care of your body especially in-season when you don’t have as much time to devote to it like you did in the off-season.

Understanding the player’s positon on the field and what they do off the field in the weight room gives great insight into where stress is being absorbed and diminished throughout the season. This helps establish a direction to what exercises might be the most beneficial during their in-season training.

First you always have to start with an assessment and what their posture is telling them before and after games. In part one of Academy of Total Performances 6-part series I am going to discuss how we at ATP break down a pitcher’s posture and how it relates to their mechanics.

Birddogs and Baseball Bats

School is back in session and baseball coaches are urgently getting the ball rolling for their fall programs in preparation to get their baseball players ready for the spring season. Anytime coaches start a new program the optimism is high because the clarity that the fall program can bring sets them up with the confidence needed to bring home a title. Along with scheduling fall practices and scrimmages the coaches have to manage scheduling time to get into the weight room so their athletes have an outlet to get strong and faster.

Like most baseball programs the workouts start with a warm up to improve blood flow to the muscles, increase mobility or maybe even create some stability in preparation for that day’s lift or if the players are lucky batting practice on the field. With so much going on the athletes will tend to get confused on why they are doing certain warm up exercises versus others or honestly do not care what so ever on what they are doing as long as they get to get under a bar and lift something heavy or take a few hacks on the field. Now working on the little things such as a proper warm up or some simple stretches is just not as flashy or cool to a young athlete compared to taking swings on the field. Young athletes don’t tend to see the importance because there isn’t an instant result compared to taking batting practice and watching and feeling how hard they hit the ball or how far it went. What if time stood still for 1 minute and you had the opportunity to teach an exercise that you believed was going to have an important carry over onto the field. If a genie granted me that moment, I would pick the Birddog exercise. Hands down one of the best exercise that every young baseball player should master and here is why.

Birddogs

The birddog starts in a 6-point position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips with your toes gripping the ground. From this position you breathe in through your nose expanding the belly down as you push the belly button to the ground. This expansion creates stability throughout the middle of your body.  As you grasp full stability you drive your heel back as far you can, point the toes as you reach the full extension. As this is going on you are simultaneously reaching as far as you can forward with your middle finger while keeping the thumb up as if you were going to show someone they did a great job. The goal is to fully lengthen the body while trying to maintain a stable position keeping the heel under the butt and while trying to keep the arm in line with the ear at the end range. In a perfect world all this would happen with ease and simultaneously unfortunately in the baseball World this doesn’t happen and tends to look different based on the player but that is what happens when you decide to fully commit to a sport that only creates bigger gaps in asymmetries.

Now let me show you what this looks like from a throwing perspective.

This only captures a minute second in time of the acceleration phase in his throwing mechanics but if you look closely this mimics a lot of what the birddog exercise is doing. He is synchronizing his contralateral sides (opposite sides) to create stability so he can transfer from his landing foot to his release point. The force that is transferred when the lead leg lands can reduce and a lot of times be expressed through other joints when the brain and neuromuscular system cannot adapt and create efficiently through such a high force movement. Throwing a baseball can create up to 7500 degrees of internal rotation along with 1.5 times body weight of distraction force at the shoulder. This leaves baseball players prone to injuries when their body cannot absorb and transfer force efficiently at such a high rate from the ground up.

This is why Birddogs are a great exercise to throw in the warm up and throughout various points in the fall strength and conditioning program to help create and maintain movement quality in baseball players. Birddogs challenge the system to communicate with the all systems to synchronize while moving through the throwing phases in baseball. I would recommend having your baseball players do 2-4 sets a day of 3-6 reps on each side. As the movement gets easier try to have them hold longer when they extend out and back. The goal would be able to hold for 6 seconds or 3 long breaths (in through the nose and out through the mouth).

You know an exercise is built for baseball when it is mimicked in the throwing phase of a baseball throw. Having your baseball players perform various forms of birddogs throughout the program will help improve the quality of how they transfer force from the ground to their release point. This can only help them improve on their self-awareness of the movement as well as give them a better understanding on why such a simple exercise can go such a long way.

Check out my article on why Baseball players should do everything else backwards.

https://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/train-your-weak-side

Why the Environment dictates your training

When it comes to training there is so many roads you can take to reach a goal. I have seen hundreds of ads on the best way to shed fat to the muscle building programs that guarantees 10 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks. All these programs are tempting but what needs to be understand is everyone person is different. Every goal is different and how your body adapts to these programs will be different, so what may work for you may not work for someone else.

I remember when I first started lifting weights in 1999 I had a vision and goal to get as big as I possible could. I figured the bigger I got the stronger I would get the harder I would throw. I lifted 6 days a week and was on a mission to gain as much size as possible. There was only one problem I was a baseball player and too add to that I was a pitcher. Getting as big as possible isn’t necessarily the right formula to throw harder and improve on the quantity of skills I was trying to perfect on the mound. I did not start to grasp this until 2008 when I was side lined for the whole season due to serve ulnar issues because I over trained.

When I was side lined I searched for answers and it lead to my first mentor Bobby Aldridge and I still will remember to this day what he told me, “it is not how much you can lift or how many days you lift, but the appropriate amount of sets and repetitions based on the environment you lived in”. I actually need to lift heavier with less repetitions and focus more on my movement awareness and my ability to transfer force from the mound to home plate. We focused on creating a better environment of sleep, strength and mobility and less on how much time I spent in the gym. It did not matter how much I deadlifted or how much I could squat but what was the right amount that would transfer over for me to pitch at the highest level.

To learn more about how training is customized based on the individual and the environment they live in check out my article on breaking muscle on Gap Threshold Training.

http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/avoid-burnout-with-gap-threshold-training

Why baseball players need to train with Kettlebells in season.

Over the course of the last few weeks I have had the privilege to coach under and be coached by some of the best coaches in the business. Timing has been perfect because of the gap between football and the start of spring training is always hard for me. I don’t know what to do with my self as I am a baseball addicted and football is my fix until the Lombardi trophy is finally hoisted in triumph. So as I waited for the last contracts to pop up on bleacher report of who is signing where and what team is projected to win the World Series, I decided to take a journey through the kettlebell community to improve on my ability to use kettlebells as a tool in the development of the baseball players that train with me in the offseason. With season approaching I thought it would ideal to reflect on the kettlebell exercises that I have used over the course of my coaching career that have shown to help my athletes maintain healthy shoulders, hips and thoracic spines throughout a long season.

Just to be clear kettlebells are a tool that I use but are not the end all be all when I am programming. I use many other tools to help my athletes stay healthy but I think it is important to go over some exercises that the kettlebell is an excellent source of equipment when performing these exercises.

1.) Tension + Relaxation = Optimal Expenditure

Baseball players are embarking on a long journey this season and they need to have the ability to create tension when needed but also have the awareness to turn it down (relaxation) when the time is right. The players at the elite level not only shine because of their talent but they have the awareness to ramp it up when needed and dim the lights down to conserve when they know it is going to be a grind. A good friend of mine Dan John talks about arousal levels and how as your arousal level goes up your time under arousal will start to diminish.

RKC TensionYou must be in tune with proper arousal meter order to understand the readings it will portray to you.The RKC does a great job at the beginning of every certification getting you to master breathing patterns that create tension patterns and breathing patterns that create relaxation patterns. Baseball is a job that requires 162 games in 180 days out of you. Grinds of long road trips and environmental influences out of the control of a player’s hands as well as your hands. This is job is a recipe for high arousal and limited relaxation and that is on a continuum of sympathetic to parasympathetic performance throughout a long season. Getting the athlete to work on diaphragmatic breathing during their rest periods between sets is just a simple way for them to work on regaining control of that arousal system.

Example: Circuit

Deadlift  (High Arousal)

Hip Flexor Stretch (Low Arousal)

Side Plank (High Arousal)

Rest 1 Minute (Last 30 secs is diaphragmatic breathing work focused) (Low Arousal)

2.) High Bridge +Single leg Kettlebell Deadlift + Kettlebell Swings = Optimal Longevity

Baseball players are extension based athletes. This means that they need to have ideal hip extension over the course of a long season because they tend to lose what Dan John calls the bow. This is the integrity it takes from the knees to the hips to the shoulders to efficiently hinge back and extend forward like if you were to shoot an arrow at a target. High bridge can be a great exercise and assessment when a player gets back from a long road trip. What happens is over the course of a long road trip a player’s hips tend to tighten up causing them to shift their extension pattern to the lumbar spine. Getting them to do a few bridges (10 reps) and then asking them where they feel it, whether it IMG_1402 2is their lower back, quads, hamstrings or glutes will tell you how they will move next when they walk out the door. Baseball players tend to feel it in their lower back, quads and hamstrings before they feel it in their glutes giving you a great indication that their glutes aren’t firing first. Glutes are the strongest hip extensor muscle in the hip complex and if they aren’t firing first which tends to happen after a long road trip they need some work before the player steps back on the field. Adding in some single leg deadlifts and some light kettlebell swings are a great way to get the glutes firing again. Throwing in some mini band work as well would help lock everything into place.

3.) Time under appropriate tension = Optimal Integrity

Tension comes up again but I am going to attack it from a different approach this time. I believe the loaded carry family and Turkish gets up are very important when your working with a baseball player in season.  Turkish gets up are the end all be all when your talking about full movements for baseball players in my eyes. When you are able to use a tool that has a unilateral tension displacement such as the kettlebell, it brings a component that dumbbells can’t. When you grasp the kettlebell and put it over head you turn the  rotator cuff on and signal the Taylor TGUshoulder that its time to work. Than as you go through the 14 steps of the get up you get a component of hip mobility, thoracic mobility, shoulder dynamic mobility/stability and unilateral core activation through various degrees. Everything that you need for a baseball player.

Now when you add in bottoms up carries, waiter carries and suit case carries you keep that treasure chest safe with great armor. See baseball players rotate and throw at such a higher force that they need to maintain the breaks that they have acquired in the offseason. Waiter carries attack the shoulder joint with great isometric manipulation around the area. Bottoms up carries add in the dynamic component to keep the rotator cuff awake and strong and there is notIMG_1420 2hing better to maintain that anti-rotation component than having a player hold a heavy kettlebell on one side and walk for distance. This lets the oblique’s (which is one of the highest injuries in pro players in spring training) and the surrounding muscles that connect the lower half to the upper half maintain quality breaks. Do not forget that you challenge the grip of these athletes when you carry heavy and if they start to lose their grip it is a great indicator that they are fatigued and need to shift back up to number 1 and work on living in their parasympathetic state to get some recovery.

In season training is a key component in all athletes and having the right tools in the tool box is key. Athletes have limited time to train because of their undulating schedule from traveling across the country to taking a test right before the game, so they don’t fall behind in class. The kettlebell is a convenient tool to maintain sport specific postural integrity for overhead athletes.  Creating the understanding of arousal on both sides of the spectrum, owning it with posterior strength (high bridge, KB SL deadlifts) and optimizing shoulder and anti-rotation synchronization with carries and get ups will give them the chance to login in numerous innings and starts to further their career.

IMG_1420 2 Optimal Integrity +Optimal Longevity= Optimal Expenditure